Sunday, September 14, 2008

LETTER: Pro Home Rule Charter

"...Proponents of appointing the County Administrator (like the township or school board model) argue that appointment allows you to hire the best person for the job rather than making it a political contest (the election itself and ongoing relations between the administrator and the Commissioners).

"How does the charter 'dilute' the power of voters? In fact, it gives the voters the ability to place questions before the Commissioners and to place questions on the ballot.

"Doesn't increasing the number of Commissioners to five also, in a sense, enhance accountability and give voters more choices?

"What it does do is decrease minority party representation by only guaranteeing the minority party one seat on the five-member Board of Commissioners. But then that's more 'democratic,' isn't it? The voters choose who they want. Democrats are outnumbered in Lancaster County.. what.. 3 to 1?

"I respect your position on this. Just offering some thoughts. It's certainly true that this grew primarily out of frustration with the previous Board of Commissioners. And you may be right about the Chamber's interest and role. But rather than looking at the past, shouldn't we be looking at the Charter itself and weighing its potential benefits against its potential liabilities?

"And doesn't having five rather than three Commissioners also perhaps help allay some of the concerns that the Sunshine Act is intended to address?

"It also seems that Home Rule counties tend to have lower tax rates than non-Home-Rule counties, although this claim has been disputed.. I have a data sheet somewhere here from one of the Government Study Commission members on that.

"I'm not sure that 'the direction of Lancaster County Government would be under the control of an individual you did not vote for.' The Commissioners would still set policy and would be responsible for the actions of their hired manager. Yes, it's once removed and he/she would have slightly greater authority and responsibilities than that individual has now, but I don't think the Commissioners would be disappearing from the scene.

"And as for taxes and the budget.. the voters can collect signatures and put a question on the ballot limiting tax increases of 7% or higher.

"I think that the Government Study Commission has been very receptive to public input throughout the process. And now it's up to voters to say whether or not they like what this Commission has come up with.

"And that's what they are, aren't they - an elected commission.. an instrumentality, in a sense, of Lancaster County Government? A special commission. No they don't speak for the government but they were elected by the people and charged with the task of determining whether changes should be made to our form of govt and then advising us on what they feel those changes should be. (Which, to me, includes.. not making unsubstantiated claims.. but explaining what they feel the benefits are).